Port Douglas is a coastal resort town located in the northeastern state of Queensland, Australia. Port Douglas is most known for its close proximity to the famous Great Barrier Reef in the Coral Sea.
The Great Barrier Reef is home to over 100 shark and ray species, amongst thousands of other marine organisms. Along with an abundance of marine life, Port Douglas is also less than 30 minutes away from Daintree National Park and a little over an hour from the Daintree Rainforest.
Several luxurious resorts and beaches surround the Port Douglas area. Some of the most famous beaches in the Port Douglas area include Four Mile Beach, Pebbly Beach, and Oak Beach.
If you’re thinking about taking a trip to the beautiful town of Port Douglas, you may be wondering:
Does Port Douglas have sharks? How common are shark attacks in Port Douglas in Australia and is it safe to swim and surf?
Some of the most common Port Douglas sharks include:
- Grey reef shark
- Whitetip reef shark
- Blacktip reef shark
- Grey nurse shark
- Silky shark
- Dusky whaler
- Sandbar shark
- Spinner shark
- Silvertip shark
Though many different types of sharks call Port Douglas and Queensland their home, shark attacks in Port Douglas are quite rare: The greater Queensland area has seen only 30 confirmed attacks since 2012 as of this writing and very few confirmed cases have been in Port Douglas, in particular.
Let’s take a closer look at the types of sharks that live near Port Douglas, photos, shark attack history and statistics, and more.
Types of Sharks at Port Douglas, Australia
Approximately 170 shark species live in Australian waters. Many sharks reside off the western and southern coast of Australia, but there is an abundance of sharks that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea that borders Port Douglas.
Amongst these sharks, the grey reef, whitetip reef, and blacktip reef shark are the most dominant shark species that inhabit the Great Barrier Reef.
Let’s take a look at some interesting facts about each of these Port Douglas sharks and the likelihood of encountering one!
Grey Reef Shark
The grey reef shark is most abundant along the northern Australian coast, stretching from West Australia to southern Queensland. Grey reef sharks are a coastal pelagic species that inhabit coral reefs. They are most commonly seen swimming along the bottom of coastal waters, but may occasionally come to the surface for food.
Grey reef sharks are attracted to Port Douglas due to its close proximity to the various coral reefs in the area.
Grey reef sharks are very curious and will approach divers entering the water to investigate.
According to Fishes of Australia, grey reef sharks are considered dangerous and have been known to attack humans, especially when threatened.
They are strong and active swimmers, which makes them a threat.
Whitetip Reef Shark
Whitetip reef sharks are a widely distributed species that can be found all around the world in areas with shallow coastal waters near coral and rock reefs.
Although they prefer shallow waters, they have been reported to swim at depths as low as 1,083 ft (330 m).
Populations in Australia can be found along the coasts of West Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. Whitetip reef sharks don’t have a large home range and typically stay within two miles of one area for a year or more.
Whitetip reef sharks are fairly small, with most individuals in Australia reaching lengths of 4.6 feet (1.4 m). Due to their small size, they are not considered dangerous to humans.
Blacktip Reef Shark
Blacktip reef sharks inhabit the waters off the coast of Port Douglas because they prefer shallow waters near coral reefs and drop-off zones.
These sharks are about the same size as whitetip reef sharks and not considered dangerous to humans.
These sharks are attracted to the reefs near Port Douglas because their preferred diet is reef fish.
They are commonly seen in small groups, but can be hard to spot because they blend in with the dim seafloor due to their darker color.
Grey Nurse Shark
Often called sand tiger sharks, grey nurse sharks are an inshore species that prefers sandy-bottomed waters near islands and coral and rocky reefs.
Port Douglas has three islands in close proximity. Magazine Island is situated just off the western coast of the town in Morey Reef and Low Isles and Woody Island are located less than 20 miles away in the northeast.
This makes Port Douglas waters the perfect, preferred habitat of grey nurse sharks.
Grey nurse sharks are known to prefer shallow waters and typically spend most of their time at depths less than 131 feet (40 m). They are one of the most widely distributed shark species in Australia and occur along the coast of all states and territories of the continent, except for Tasmania.
Grey nurse sharks are not considered a threat to humans because they are slow swimmers, but should never be provoked if encountered.
The silky shark is a very fast and active shark that is considered aggressive and dangerous to humans. These sharks inhabit the northwest and northeast coasts of Australia, along continental and insular shelves.
Silky sharks are fairly large, averaging a length of 11.5 feet (3.5 m) with a maximum reported weight of 762.8 pounds (346 kg). Their size combined with their quickness makes them a dangerous potential threat.
These sharks may travel to depths as low as 1,640 feet (500 m), but have also been reported in shallower waters around 60 feet (18 m). Juveniles are most common in shallow coastal waters.
Although they are considered dangerous, they are known to ignore divers in the area. Aggression may increase when food sources are nearby.
Dusky whalers are one of the most widely distributed shark species in Australian waters.
They live in coastal waters and along continental shelves. During warmer months, female dusky whalers are most common in shallower waters to give birth to pups.
Even though they frequently occur at the surface, dusky whalers have been known to swim as deep as 1,312 feet (400 m). They are fairly large sharks, reaching lengths of about 12 feet (3.65 m).
Although there are only a few attacks recorded in Australian waters, larger dusky whalers are considered to be potentially dangerous.
The sandbar shark is a coastal species that inhabits West Australia and Queensland. They are also a very common shark off the coast of the U.S. in the Atlantic.
For a coastal species, sandbar sharks are considered to be fairly large. Their length can range from 6.5 feet (2 m) to 8 feet (2.4 m) and can weigh up to 200 pounds (90 kg).
Sandbar sharks are not very active during the day, but due to their opportunistic feeding behaviors, they can be found inshore in the daytime.
Adults tend to travel at lower depths, while juveniles will go back and forth between shallow and deep waters according to the season.
Since they spend more time in deeper waters, sandbar sharks do not pose a threat to humans.
Spinner sharks are highly active, medium-sized sharks commonly found all around the world in nearshore temperate and tropical waters. Spinner shark populations are found in a majority of Australian waters, except for the southern coast.
The name of the spinner shark comes from its feeding behaviors. Spinner sharks zoom through schools of fish with an open mouth while spinning, and occasionally jump up out of the water.
Although they have an aggressive feeding style, spinner sharks are not considered a threat to humans.
However, they may become aggressive when spearfishing is in play.
Along the northeastern and northwestern coasts of Australia, you will find the silvertip shark. This shark species likes to inhabit coral reefs and offshore islands.
Silvertip sharks are recognized as top predators that feed on a number of fish, small sharks, and rays. Similar to the whitetip reef shark, silvertip sharks are named for the grayish-white color on the tips of their fins.
According to the Shark Research Institute, silvertips can be dangerous and pose a threat to humans when encountered.
Shark Attack History at Port Douglas
Although Port Douglas waters are a hotspot for numerous shark species, shark attacks along the entire coast of Queensland are not common compared to other parts of Australia.
According to the Taronga Conservation Society of Australia shark incident database, Queensland has only had three fatal shark attacks since 2012, as of 2022.
There have been a total of 30 unprovoked shark incidents in Queensland since 2012, eight of which resulted in no injuries. This means that the average number of shark incidents every year in Queensland waters is three.
There are very few reports of shark attacks in Port Douglas waters.
One of the most recently reported attacks happened in December 2014, when an 18-year-old suffered from a shark bite to the upper thigh while swimming in Rudder Reef. The injury was fatal.
In 1998, a Louisiana couple vacationing in Australia was left behind during a scuba diving trip at St. Crispin Reef, 34 miles off the coast of Port Douglas. They were not reported missing for a little over two days.
According to a marine life expert and diver, it is likely that the couple was killed by a shark within 48 hours. However, this has not been confirmed and the couple may have drowned.
Despite these attacks, there is very little information on shark attacks at Port Douglas.
New South Wales (NSW), just south of Queensland, is known to have the most shark attack incidents out of all Australian states and territories. Since 2012, NSW has had the most unprovoked shark attacks recorded in 6 out of the 10 years of recorded cases.
The Great Barrier Reef makes the eastern coast of Australia a very attractive habitat for many shark species.
Although shark attacks have occurred in Port Douglas waters, they are extremely rare. Most Port Douglas sharks are encountered when diving near the abundance of reefs off the coast of the resort town.
Whether you are looking into vacationing at Port Douglas, or already visiting, you may see sharks if you visit the coral reefs in the area. However, Port Douglas is considered a safe area in terms of shark attacks in Australia.
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Hope this helps!